Dear readers, 1800 years after Julius Caesar survived the assassination attempt, the Roman empire sits at the forefront of technological and industrial innovations.
We have made our way to the edge of a forest, where the men of the XIII Germania legion prepare for battle. We are going to interview one of the young officers of the legion, on the cracking facade, espionage, corruption, and revolution that are pulling the empire apart.
Can I help you? You must be one of our new recruits.
You’re Julius Brutus Caesar?
Yes, named after both the great founders of the Empire. My father was a traditionalist, what can I say.
And you’re actually from Brittenburg? I thought everyone there was dead!
Ha! Not a chance. It already felt like a swamp mixed with a giant factory. At least, the part where I lived. Don’t get me wrong, the palaces and marketplaces in Brittenburg are…were…will be beautiful again. At least, once reconstruction has completed. Nortlander raids and destroyed seagates tend to ruin things, especially when your city is below sea level. That’s what we get for living in Germania Inferior.
I’m sorry, where?
You’ve never heard of it? Uh… It’s opposite Britannia and north of Gaul? The Belgicae used to live there… Anyways, long story short – big city next to the ocean, but big walls to keep out the ocean. Didn’t you study geography in the scholarum?
So you’re a city boy then?
Absolutely! Every tool in my house was a toy, and every street was a play yard. That and my lead soldiers I got to drag around everywhere were my escape from school. I even built myself a tiny mechaniphant to join my tiny legion when I was ten! Seems sort of hilarious that I ended up building the real thing only a few years later. That was back when my dad wasn’t hurt and could work. Those were the good days…before I left to join the legions.
How’d you wind up here?
Now I’m the commanding officer of the XIII Germania. Yes, that one, the one formerly led by the Primus Imperio himself, rightful heir to the throne, Constantine Tiberius Appius. I like to think I’ve gotten him out of a fair number of challenges on several occasions. He wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for me!
Why are you here?
Well much of it is classified, but as this is a loyalist news outlet I suppose I can share. It’s pretty hard to fight a civil war when the Mongols are invading, but somehow we’re managing it. Well, myself, the Primus, and Senatora Octavia Pelia. You don’t know about her? She’s only about the most ruthless and intelligent crippled guerilla warfare leader in living memory. But even she has her hands full trying to keep Emperor Sabinus’ army off our backs long enough for our loyalist legions to throw back the Mongols.
The XIII is renowned for their specialized version of aerial assault. What can you tell me of that first jump?
Officially, there was no puking. I can neither confirm nor deny that anyone lost control of his or her bowels. Including anyone in leadership positions. But otherwise, officially, dropping from an airship over a battlefield or behind enemy lines is a crucial part of the XIII’s skills.
That must have been terrifying.
No, that was relatively easy – Facing down the assassin Corbus in the depths of Midgard, the gigantic Nortland fortress was not. Just him and I, me with a spear, him with a terrifying mechawolf that could breathe fire. I still have dreams about that…
How are you all holding up? This war must end sometime.
Indeed. The worst part isn’t the fighting, it’s not being able to know where the people I care about are! Like the Primus’ cousin. She may be the daughter of that traitorous slive of an emperor, but she’s got some of the best wits around. Even if she does use them to leave me tongue-tied every time I see her.
Do you miss anything about Brittenburg?
We had all these awesome machines to do jobs for us. Even haul our trash away! Could you imagine life without that? I mean, we’d just be throwing trash into the gutter like savages! I was glad to see those inventions still exist even here near Byzantium.
Tell us a little about your friends.
I suppose I can count the Primus as a friend. Seems like I’ve know him forever, and he’s only a few years older than me. My best friend has to be Gwendyrn, my senior tribune. Shortly after we met, we pretty much ended up beating the snot out of each other in front of Constantine Appius, or Tribune Appius as he was known then. Oh, and we ended up in the newspapers. Not a bad start for a friendship. Otherwise, it’s pretty much me, my sister Marciena, and my men. Sure there are other officers, but most of them are noble-born, not low-class commoners like me.
Sometimes I think I like it that way.
Why is there a civil war on anyways? There’s already an emperor on the throne.
If you want to call him an emperor, we might have more than words here right now. Sabinus Appius – Uncle to our leader and rightful emperor, is a murdering coward. He’s slaughtered friends and ordered the burning of villages and provinces alike. He ordered the assassination of the old emperor and successfully launched a coup after the assassin Corbus stabbed the emperor in the throne room. I’ve faced Corbus. Damn man moves like oil on a hot griddle, this way and that, and you’re never able to pin him down.
What does the future hold for you?
Well, once we get out of this gigantic mess we’re in, I think I’ll have secured enough goodwill from the Primus to maybe convince him to allow me to court Aurelia. Oh, that’s his cousin, didn’t mention that part completely earlier. I think he’ll agree to it. After all, I’ve saved his life, and I’m fairly certain Aurelia would rip him a new one if he didn’t agree. She can be a bit forceful when she wants to be.
Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
I write poetry.
But don’t make fun of me.
Aurelia thinks it’s funny.
Now, don’t you think you aught to put on your helmet, journalist? After all, we’ve got a war to win, and we need all the men – and women – we can get.
Daniel Ottalini is a teacher, amateur historian, and writer from Maryland. When not curling up with his favorite book, he’s probably doing research on another crazy ‘what if’ story for himself or his students.
Join us next week to meet a young woman from an alternative world to Ancient Rome. Please follow the site by (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.